At this years’ Feis Ile, Bruichladdich’s special release was a bit more special than most.
The Octomore series is always pushing boundaries, but the Octomore 1695 Discovery is off the scale; a quadruple-distilled peat monster which came off the stills at almost 90% alchohol and after maturing in Oloroso Sherry Butts for 7 years has been bottled at ‘only’ 69.5% and selling for £150 a bottle.
Jim McEwan decided to attempt the quadruple-distillation after being insprired by the Scots traveller Martin Martin’s diary;
Martin Martin was an adventurer on a journey of discovery. He wrote one of the first travelogues about the Western Isles of Scotland and famously described some early versions of what would eventually evolve into Scotch whisky: “the Natives to brew several sorts of Liquors, as common Usquebaugh, another call’d Trestarig, id est Aquavitae, three times distill’d, which is strong and hot; a third sort is four times distill’d, and this by the Natives is call’d Usquebaugh-baul, id est Usquebaugh, which at first taste affects all the Members of the Body: two spoonfuls of this last Liquor is a sufficient Dose; and if any Man exceed this, it would presently stop his Breath, and endanger his Life”.
So, enough preamble – what’s it like?
There a good bit of sweetness; lemon drizzle cake and sugary orange. Peat hits you, but it’s not overpowering. Some bacon notes.
Adding water lights the fire so to speak – bonfire, damp peat and new leather come through in waves.
Neat, there’s more of that lemon sweetness with lots of bacon. The peat is much less than expected, though the hot alcohol burn is quite full on – this dram needs a bit of taming.
Reduced with water, the peat is brought forward in a similar manner to the nose, leathery and thick. There’s a creaminess to the taste and slight sherried sweetness.
Due to the strength, this can take a lot of water however unlike a lot of young whiskies, it’s robust enough that the flavour is always there. A depth of flavour and complexity beyond it’s years.
The finish is much longer than you’d expect, even when reduced – peaty, leathery notes and lemon zest last for an age. Very pleasant finish.
This is a mad whisky, no question however it’s not the freak show that it could have been. Much more complexity than it should do for such a strong, young spirit and once you add a splash of water, it’s quite a pleasant drink. Given the choice between the 1695 Discovery and the 6.1 which I’ve previously tasted, I’d choose this one every time.
Not a cheap bottle but completely unique and worth seeking out in my opinion. As expected, it’s already hit the auctions in a big way and is proving popular.